A Filipina domestic worker in Hong Kong was sacked after she was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer in January, leaving her without healthcare.
Baby Jane Allas is a single mother of five and now has been cut off from her only source of income, unable to provide for her children and pay for the lofty medical bills.
“I want to finish my contract… because I have five children, only me, I am (a) single mother,”Allas, crying when interviewed by AFP.
After receiving the unfortunate news of her diagnosis, she received a letter from her employers firing her- another nasty shock.
“Reason(s) for termination (if any): Diagnosed with cervical cancer,” read the letter, which was seen by AFP.
Under Hong Kong law, the employer is obliged to provide for the helper’s healthcare.
Allas’s firing is likely to be illegal and she is launching a challenge. But now that she is sacked, she has lost the right to healthcare and had to leave the city in two weeks.
There are nearly 370,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong, who are mostly women from Indonesia and the Philippines carrying out household tasks for a relatively small pay. In Hong Kong, the living conditions for domestic workers are worse compared to Singapore. This is due to the notoriously small size of the apartments in the city, with reports of helpers needing to sleep in the bathroom.
Her sister, Mary Ann, is currently employed by an American, Jessica Cutrera, who has kindly taken her in. She is also helping Allas fight her case and started an online campaign to raise funds for her treatment, garnering around $43,000 to date.
Cutrera wrote on the campaign’s site that her family would “happily employ her ourselves but she cannot be hired under a new contract with an active advanced cancer diagnosis”.
They have obtained support to obtain an extended visa while she fights her claim, but this visa will not allow her to access government paid care.
This case raises the question of an employer’s treatment of his or her domestic workers- they should be treated with respect, but are more often than not vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by both Hong Kong and Singaporean employers alike.
Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, general manager of Mission for Migrant Workers, said that ultimately “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure migrant domestic workers have access to public healthcare” regardless of employment status, because such cases of wrongful termination are not uncommon.